Sacramento Republic FC make their return to USL league play this Saturday as they host Swope Park Rangers, Sporting Kansas City's creatively named MLS 2 team, for the first time. SPR are the are in their first USL season, having entered the league as the only Western Conference team in the latest class of MLS 2s.
Here are some things to think about heading into tomorrow's match.
The most eventful bye week ever
The Republic enjoyed a welcome respite from USL league play last week, something which gave them plenty of time to pursue interests outside playing soccer. Interests like playing soccer.
Although the Republic have not taken part in any league games since their May 14th match against Seattle Sounders 2, they have definitely been keeping busy with a US Open Cup match against CD Aguiluchos USA and a pair of friendlies against Liverpool U-21s. In fact, when tomorrow's game is over, the Republic will have played 5 games in 15 days.
Goals, glorious goals.
Earlier in the season we all lamented the Republic's scoring woes. The team seemed like it could not find the back of the net to save its life, and when it did the referees were quick to take it back. It wasn't too long ago that "Ok no, seriously, let's score some goals" and "Can we please for the love of the almighty Quail score a goal" were regular parts of match previews.
That, however, seems like it might be a thing of the past. This month, with its 13 goals across 5 games, has so far put to rest much of the hand-wringing over the team's lack of offensive production.
It should be said that three of the five games this month have come either in friendlies or against amateur competition in the US Open Cup, but the fact that the Republic offense is able to put together five consecutive multi-goal games speaks to an improvement on the offensive side of things. It remains to be seen how the apparently resurgent offense will fare as the season goes on, but as has been said quite a few times, the SPR defense is pretty weak and the Republic could take advantage of that.
How do you replace the irreplaceable?
Tomorrow's match against Swope Park Rangers will be a fairly special one. Not only will it be the first time that these two have faced off, but it will also be one of the rare occasions that Republic right back Emrah Klimenta will not in the starting lineup. Instead, Klimenta will be away with the Montenegro National Team.
Klimenta, more so than any other player, has been a mainstay for the Republic since the first kick of the first season. To give you an idea of how important he's been to the team, here is a rundown of all the team records he currently holds: Most matches played, most matches started, most consecutive appearances, and most minutes played. Basically, if the Republic have played a game since 2014, chances are very good that Klimenta would be stepping onto the field.
But not tomorrow. Tomorrow someone else will be starting in the right back spot. If the friendlies against Liverpool U-21s and Paul Buckle's recent comments are anything to go by, it seems likely that Joaquin Rivas will be that someone. A natural attacker, Rivas is not as comfortable at right back as Klimenta, but he has shown a willingness to fill in there when needed and he did an ok job against Liverpool U-21s.
Of course, there is always the possibility that the Republic could receive Kip Colvey, a natural right back, on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes. Colvey would definitely be the better option, but whether or not he is even available for the Republic is completely up in the air.
Here is a possible starting XI for tomorrow's game.
One big omission that might immediately leap out from this starting XI is the absence of new Republic signing Daniel Trickett-Smith, who has caused some excitement among Republic fans with his promising performances against Liverpool U-21s. However, DTS only came to Sacramento last week and is still getting settled with the team. Despite his obvious talent, it does not seem likely that DTS will be handed a starting XI spot right away.
Much of the starting XI above is fairly similar to what we have seen in the past. Cameron Iwasa seems to have taken to the left wing spot well and a central midfield of JJ Koval and Danny Barrera is one of the better ones that the Republic can field. Despite a fantastic performance in the US Open Cup, it seems likely that Octavio Guzman will be preferred over Max Alvarez in the right midfield spot, if only to help lock down that right side with Rivas at right back.
What are your thoughts about tomorrow's match? Any predictions of your own? Sound off in the comments below.